Matier and Ross always love a good horse race story. Today’s column finds them back on their horse race du jour: the California Governor Sweepstakes. A statewide poll by Moore Methods shows another big lead for the former (and future?) Governor Edmund Gerald Brown, Jr., this time it’s nearing 30 points at Brown 49, Newsom 20. Now, as you can tell there are still a large group of undecideds, and there is still a ton of time. Heck, Brown still hasn’t announced which race he is going to get into, and that may be “a few months” away. But, he does have this spiffy new website up. Suitably vague and everything.
And in San Francisco, Gavin Newsom gets a little extra attention. Which, as it turns out, isn’t always a good thing. In a Binder Poll recently released, Newsom is trailing Brown by 17 points, 51-34. The same dynamic of name ID as the biggest mover of opinion cannot be said to be the case. San Franciscans know Newsom, however, Brown is still something of an enigma here like he is elsewhere across the state. While those across the Bay in Oakland know him quite well (especially the developers), San Franciscans have never been particularly good about looking outside of our own bubble to see what’s going on around us, even if it is just over the Bridge.
There is a lot of room for movement, a point that Garry South made in the M&R piece. And that much I will give him. I’m not sure about the rest of this quote:
And Newsom’s campaign suggested Brown’s appeal among Democrats wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be, saying his strength is based mostly on his “80 percent name ID” and little else.
“Dianne Feinstein started out nearly 20 points behind John Van de Kamp in the 1990 gubernatorial primary, and ended up beating him by 11 points,” said Newsom’s chief consultant, Garry South. (SF Chronicle 8/23/09)
Comparing the 2010 electorate to the 1990 electorate is like comparing the California electorate to that of Arizona. Sure, they are tangentially related, but not really the best indicator of future results as they say in the financial business. There is a ton of time left, and thirty points is a gap that can be made up. And DiFi rode the death penalty sword all the way to the nomination. I’m not sure if social issues, the ones that can really change the game in a primary, are really going to be much of an issue come June 2010. There just isn’t that much daylight between the two candidates.
But if we are to see a big change in the dynamics of this race, I think we’d have to see some big reason to move to Newsom or some other candidate that hasn’t entered the race yet. Both Newsom and Brown have good reasons for moving up to the Gov gig, but both also have some weaknesses both to the grassroots and to the larger Democratic electorate. But as the race is now, with both candidates being fairly non-committal on the big issues, the status quo is just going to happen. And Brown will simply drift into the nomination.
However, I’m not sure a primary election governed by drift is really the best thing for the party or for the state. Let’s see some real debate on the very serious issues facing the state: prisons, the budget, water, etc. And let’s see some reason to move one way or the other. But, until that happens…drift will reign supreme.